In 1997, when Yale first spurned an offer from strident gay author and activist Larry Kramer ’57, he launched vicious attacks on University administrators, calling President Richard Levin “spineless” and Provost Alison Richard “that termagant woman.” Indeed, Yale’s Old Blue approach to academics proved an easy target for Kramer, an avid, wealthy supporter of homosexual rights and academic study.
Without a gay and lesbian studies program to speak of, the University’s curricula seemed deficient to Kramer. But to Yale administrators, the refusal of his initial offer to endow a professorship represented a stodgy, smart approach that kept its liberal arts tradition free of alumni influence a la Lee Bass ’79, the Texan billionaire who was thwarted in his efforts to spearhead “Western Studies” in 1995. Somewhere in the middle lies the right answer, and fortunately for Yale, its top brass and Kramer persisted and reached a compromise. Yale will now accept his papers as an addition to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and $1 million from his brother Arthur Kramer ’49 to fund the Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale.
Both parties are winners, but Yale students come out on top. While gay and lesbian studies may not yet hold its own as an academic discipline, its importance to the Yale community is undeniable.